Pfizer Investigator Stalked Neurontin Witness; Who Paid Off the Plaintiffs?

Last Updated Jul 30, 2009 10:33 AM EDT

The first of Pfizer's Neurontin mass tort cases could not have been stranger: The plaintiffs dropped the case after a mystery donor paid them $50,000; a Pfizer investigator was accused by a witness of blocking his driveway and scaring his family; and CEO Jeff Kindler made it personal between him and the lead plaintiffs' lawyer, Mark Lanier.

Lanier said the donation came from another plaintiffs' attorney who had been watching the case in the courtroom. He told the AP:

"Isn't that wild?" Lanier said. "I've never had anything like that happen before."
Wild, and also convenient. As BNET noted July 24, the case was described as "very tough" by the judge. The plaintiff's family claimed Neurontin was prescribed off-label for their daughter, Susan Bulger, who killed herself. The anti-seizure drug was not indicated for depression. But the dead woman had attempted suicide before and had a history of mental problems. The case was probably a loser for Lanier. The real mystery is why he decided to bring it in the first place.

Pfizer can breathe a sigh of relief, too. The first witness, former Pfizer drug sales rep David Franklin, told the court he was stalked by a Pfizer pflunky. AmLaw:

He told the courtroom that the day before trial, a private investigator hired by Pfizer came to his house, blocked the driveway, and would not leave until his wife called the police. After Franklin's testimony -- during which he said that the private investigator had yelled at his wife and frightened his young daughter -- Judge Saris told [Pfizer lawyer William Ohlemeyer of Boies, Schiller & Flexner] that "no one should be going after Dr. David Franklin anymore."
Ohlmeyer confirmed the incident to the AP:
"It sounds like this didn't happen the way it should have happened," Ohlemeyer said. "We apologized to (Franklin) for what happened."
Having performed The Great Escape -- the settlement truncates any more entertaining testimony about what else Pfizer's spies might have gotten up to in the case -- Kindler then decided to open his mouth. Bloomberg:
"We are pleased to have been vindicated in this case," Jeffrey Kindler, chief executive officer of New York-based Pfizer, said in a phone interview on Bloomberg Television today. Neurontin has been "prescribed to treat millions of patients safely and effectively for many, many years and it's been widely studied for more than two decades," he said.
"Vindicated?" Lanier didn't like that:
Kindler's comments are "outrageous," Lanier said. "All Pfizer got today was a six-month stay of execution. We have 1,200 more of these cases to go."
In a media battle, the freewheeling Lanier will beat Kindler every day of the week. The company had made a great case that Neurontin was the least of Bulger's problems. The plaintiff was so unsympathetic that the judge even had to warn the jury that she was not related to Boston gangster Whitey Bulger. Kindler should stick to winning these things on the facts. The "vindication" here only sets the company up for more difficult cases to come.